Priest Hospital is the only hospital in Thailand and in the world that was established by the state to specifically provide health care for Buddhist’s monk and novice from all over the country. Priest Hospital was established in B.E. 2484 (1941) under the government led by Field Marshal PlaekPhibunsongkhram, the Prime Minister at the time, who wish to build the Priest Hospital in the area approximate to Wat Phra Si Mahathat. However, the initial project had to be suspended due to World War II. Later in 1949, Field Marshal PlaekPhibunsongkhram, the Prime Minister, had relaunched the program and appointed the first Committee to oversee this project on 24th March 1949. This committee was called “Priest Hospital Construction Consideration Committee” and was consisted 13 committee members frommonks and individuals. The committee had decided to build the hospital on the land in ThungPhaya Thai Sub-district which has remain as the location of the Priest hospital up to this day. The first foundation pillar was put to ground on the 11th May 1949 at 09.32 hour, or the Day of Vesak of that year. The supreme patriarchVajirayanawong, Wat Bowonniwet, had attended the ceremony as the chair of the event and had given the name of this hospital as “Priest Hospital”. The hospital was officially opened on Wednesday 21st February 1951 and was assigned to Department of Medical Services, Ministry of Public Health to administrate. MD. WirajMakduangkaew was the first director of the Priest Hospital. The hospital later began its service on the 1st March 1951. Later on, The Supreme Patriarchat the time (Kittinophon), also the master abbot of Wat Benjamabophit who was occupying the position of PhraWanrat and the Chairman of the Ecclesiastical had seen that the activities of the hospital was growing as it effectively served the monks and novices who sought medical attention, yet, there are certain limitation due to the fact that there are some activities that is directly related to monk’s duty. With this reason, there should be a committee consisting of religious sector and non-religious sector to coordinate the work to help lessen the task. This first committee was called “Priest Hospital Committee of Service for Monk and Novice”. The committee was appointed by the Chairman of the Ecclesiastical on the 24th August 1953. Due to the fact that the name of the committee was overly lengthy, it was later shortened as “Religious Sector Committee”. The committee had helped provide service and convenience pertaining to the compliance with Buddhist’s doctrine and other care toward the well-being of the monk and novice who had come to the Priest Hospital to seek medical treatment. The second committee appointed by the Chairman of the Ecclesiastical on the 20th October 1953 was called “Priest Committee of Priest Hospital”. Each day, the member cycled their schedule to attend and work at the Priest Hospital – to help solve problem and make decision relating to Buddhist conduct and doctrine required in any action as may be useful or required by the hospital. As monks and novices have different set of rules to uphold comparing to non-religious person according to Buddhist’s doctrine, it is in appropriate for religious sector person to share hospital with non-religious sector person as in the time of Buddha, there are facility specifically assigned for the ordained monk. Even though many hospitals try to accommodate this requirement by providing specific space for monks and novices in each, the increasing number of patients had often led the two groups to be mixed in the same compound and had compromised the religious doctrine in some respect.
This problem led to the establishment of the Priest Hospital which aimed to address 3 goals.
1. To avoid any impropriety of mixing religious sector person and non-religious sector person together.
2. To help the Buddhist monk and novice to attain their virtual conduct under the Buddhist ‘s doctrine.
3. To uphold the teaching of the Buddha whichsays“YoPikawemangUppatathaheyaya So kilanangUppatathaheyaya” which means “Any who wish to be in service of us, please be of service to those monk who are ill”.
Duty and responsibility of the Priest hospital
1. To undergo study, research, and analysis activity pertaining to medical service for monks and novices in regard to general illness and ophthalmology.
2. To train and educate medical practitioner, local doctor, and health care service provider in various field especially in their focus study, and to transfer medical knowledge and technology to medical personnel.
3. To provide examination and treatment service and to improve the general well-being in the treatment of general illness and ophthalmology for monks and novices.
4. To operate duty and provide support to coordinating institute or as assigned.
Priest Hospital Dining hall
Priest Hospital Dining hall
The hall is a 2-stories building with the dimension of 24 meters length and 28 meters width. The ceremonious foundation pillar was put to ground on the 21st February 1951 in the event chaired by the Supreme Patriarch. The purpose of the dining hall was to provide convenience for those monks and novices who sought medical care from the hospital. The dining hall also prepare meals for monks and normal person alike during various traditional ceremony on the ground floor. The top floor can be operated as convention hall with capacity of 500 attendees, to be used to disseminate the knowledge in health care, virtue teachings, and other medical knowledge and technology of varying fields. The dining hall was built from the total fund of 1,800,400.00 Baht (One million Eight Hundred Thousand Four Hundred Baht) consisting of 250,000.00 Baht (Two Hundred and Fifty Thousand Baht) funding from government’s lottery scheme, 502,400.00 Baht (Five Hundred and Two Thousand and Four hundred Baht) from donation and 1,048,000.00 (One Million Forty-Eight Thousand Baht) from budget.
The Sacred Idol of Priest Hospital
This Buddha idol was a personal property of Prince ParibatraSukhumbandhu, Prince of Nakhon Sawan and was donated for public display at the National Museum. On 21st December 1932, the Buddha idol was relocated to Wat Benjamabophit. On the ceremonious day of 21st February 1953 at 19.00 hour, a great parade was organized to move the Buddha idol from Wat Benjamabophit, along the great Bodhi tree. On the day, the religious sector was chaired by สมเด็จพระวันรัตสังฆนายก for the สมเด็จพระวชิรญาณวงศ์, the Supreme Patriarch, while the non-religious sector was chaired by Field Marshal PlaekPhibunsongkhram. The buddha idol was paraded along with the great Bodhi tree from Wat Benjamabophit. The idol resided in the main temple within the Priest Hospital premise while the Bodhi tree was placed behind the main temple.
This Buddha idol was designed in cross-leg sitting form, the height from the top of the hair bun of the idol to the bottom of the pedestal is 123 cm. while width from both knees are 75 cm. The idol was fashioned in the model of early Chiang Saen style during the 16th Buddhist Century (11th Century C.E.) which dated this idol to around 900 years old. The idols feature a hair bun in the shape of a unbloomed lotus, hair in small curls, shorter and wider face, and the eyes, nose, and mouth were fashioned after Pala Indian style, the chest and waist are roundish and thick, belly and shoulder are slightly wide, the robe is short and hang above the breast line. The idol having short robe style in such a fashion is the unique identity to early Chiang Saend Buddha idol “Singha Nueng”. The arms of the idol are round and thick with a lifelike delicate finger curve design. The end of a finger is fashioned to be curvier or “playful finger” style. Two feet are also designed in curvy fashion “playful feet” style. The pedestal is adorned with “Elephant’s nail lotus” petal and lotus seed pattern. The color of the idol was brackish brown rather than black and was hypothesized to be caused by polishing attempted in the past (before the era of King Rama V, B.E. 2450 (1907)) when polishing of Buddha idol was popular as referenced by historical research. The name of this Buddha idol is “Buddha SampathanNirokapath” which means “The Buddha who ward-off all illness”
Jeevakakomarapaja The Great Medicine Teacher
Jeevakakomarapaja The Great Medicine Teacher
In the time of Buddha while the Buddha was residing in the Mango garden of the Jeevaka doctor, the Buddha had heard the question of the Jeevaka doctor and bestow a teaching called “The person who had taken a long journey”.The Buddha told a story that one time, Devadatta conspire with Ajatashatru to “kill the Buddha”. They climbed mount Gijjhakuta and push a boulder down the mountain in an attempt to kill the Buddha. The boulder crash with the rock on the mountain and split in two and the debris had flown and landed on the feet of the Buddha. The foot of the Buddha was swollen with blood and had caused Buddha suffering. The group of follwoers helped bring the Buddha to Yang Mattakuji. However, the Buddha wished to go to see Jeevaka doctor and said, “The group of you should bring us to the Mango garden of the Jeevaka doctor”. Once the good doctor heard of the Buddha arrival to his mango garden, he rushed to the pavilion that the Buddha resided and treated the Buddha with medicine and clean the wound. Once the Jeevaka doctor wrapped the wound, he said to the Buddha “I have a duty to treat a person within the city compound, I will rush to his pavilion then comeback. This treatment should stay on you until I have arrived”. The Jeevaka doctor rushed to other patient but on the way back it was the time the city gate is closed. Jeevaka doctor then thought to himself with worry that “I have treated the Buddha and wrapped the foot as normally do when the foot was badly hurt. Now is the time to unwrap such cloth and I was not there to do so and this will bring fever to the Buddha all night long”. However, the Buddha knew that the Jeevaka doctor did not make it by the time the city gate is closed, and so asked Ananda to attend to him and said that “Ananda, Jeevaka doctor did not make by the time the city gate is closed, right now is the proper time that the cloth should be unwrapped, please unwrap the cloth”. One Ananda unwrapped the cloth, all the wounds are full heal and all the skin graft fell off just like a dry bark on a tree. Jeevaka doctor returned to the garden inthe morning and asked the Buddha “Did the Buddhasuffer any fever”. The Buddha replied, “All my fever had been silent at the Great Bodhi Tree”, the Buddha further bestow a teaching which says “This fever is natural not to occur to those who journeyed far from sorrow and desire which binds the being”. In these words, the person who journeyed far means those who had arrived at the destination - the long journey. Even though the long journey consistsin terms of hardship and of the cycle, both of these journey prompts the traveler to keep on journey until the person reached his destination. But once they arrive at the destination, all animal must keep on journeying throughout the cycle as they remain. The Buddha asked, “Why is this?” and duly replied “Because the circle of each person had not ceased. Even for many those who had trained well after the Buddha, they remain the person who must take a long journey”. However, the Buddha had broken the cycle and thus can be called as those who had journeyed far, becoming the person without sorrow, as the cycle which is the source of the sorrow had been broken. And so, he is the person who is called “Free in all dharma” – those who are freed in Dharma, and “Free of all desire” – a person who is freed from all desires that binds the being as he gave up on all 4 binding desires. And so, there is no fever; the fever of the mind and fever of the body. The body fever still happened to the Buddha as he still experienced any hotness and coldness like any other. The Jeevaka doctor inquire the Buddha about his physical symptoms and the Buddha answered in teaching as a reply as he is freed of all the fever of the mind. The Buddha said “Jeevaka, worrying about old age is also a fever, and this does not occur to the Buddha who understand the nature of aging”. Once heard the Buddha teaching, Jeevaka doctor had achieved Sotapatti.
The spirit house of Priest Hotel is the place of reverence for hospital staff, government worker, and general people and had long been one of the elements of the hospital’s identity. From the story passed on from one generation to another, it was said that the spirit house was constructed under MD. SomphongSiriphakdee who was the hospital director during 1964-1971, having MD. PrayoonWongpadung, a friend of Mr. PraserrtKetjinda who was a student of Rear Admiral LuangSuwijanphaet of the Navy Medicine Division as the chairman of the founding ceremony (information from Mr. SuprapojManeesuwan, a former staff of Priest Hospital). The spirit house was renovated again during the term of Vice DirectorMr, PluAjsuwan as the spirit house was in a ruining stage. The original pillar of the spirit house was used as the foundation and the new one was built on top of the that pillar. The new spirit house came in a 3-roofs style, made of Teak from Lampang. The spirit invitation ceremony was conducted by 4 monks from Wat Ratchanatdaram. The spirit house received a restoration again on the 23rd December 2009 in order to maintain the structure, and along with it the culture paying respect to the protector spirit upheld by the forefathers of Priest Hospital. MD. SomkiatKasemthamkhunet al. launched the new restoration project with plan to recreate the spirit house in 3-roof double Thai house style with the dimension of 165.5 x 185.9 cm. (the restoration itself symbolize prosperity - multiply). The size of the teak pillar would be 30 x 180 cm., and the teak table 70 x 100 cm. The new pillar would be constructed with 9 sacred wood; Ironwood, Indian Laburnam, Javanese Cassia, Spiny Bamboo, Indian Coral tree, Jackfruit, Teak, Siamese Rosewood, Indian mahogany, and other precious metal and jewel such as gold, silver, and the alloy of copper, silver, and gold buried at the foundation. The construction ceremony was set on 19th December 2009 at 9.09 hour and the protector spirit summoning ceremony was on 23rd December 2009 at 9.09 hour by the director of Priest Hospital, MD. WarapornPhumsawad and the staff. In addition to the restoration of spirit house, there were also the ceremony paying respect to Gaṇeśa and Guan Yin, and public meal. The event gained much attention by the public and were attended by many. These ceremonies were chaired by Somchai Jarungpornsawad and was organized using the budget from donation from the staff to bring peace and serenity to the people of Priest Hospital.
The Great Bodhi Tree
The Great Bodhi Tree
Once the Priest Hospital Committee completed the construction of the main temple, the Committee had asked for the permission from the Supreme Patriarch of Wat Benjamabophit (While the Supreme Patriarch was stillPhraWanrat, the Chairman of the Ecclesiastical) and Fine Arts Department to grant the Buddha statues that were placed in the pavilion around each direction of Wat Benjamabophit to the Priest Hospital. The Chairman of the Ecclesiastical agreed and so there was a parade moving the Buddha statue along with a branch of Bodhi Tree from the Bodhi Tree in Wat Benjamabophit which originally came from a branch of Bodhi Tree in Bodh Gaya, India. The Buddha statues and the Bodhi tree branch was paraded on the 21st February 1953 at 09.00 hour. The Buddha SampathanNirokapathwas summoned and place as the main idol of the temple and the Bodhi tree was grown at the back of the temple.